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Preventing Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Maintaining Limits on Days of Sale

Limiting the days when alcohol can be sold is intended to prevent excessive alcohol consumption and related harms by regulating access to alcohol. Most policies limiting days of sale target weekend days (usually Sundays). They may apply to alcohol outlets in which alcohol may be legally sold for the buyer to drink at the place of purchase (on-premises outlets, such as bars or restaurants) or elsewhere (off-premises outlets, such as liquor stores). In the United States, policies may be made at the state level and, where not prohibited by state pre-emption laws, at local levels.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

On the basis of strong evidence, the Community Preventive Services Task Force  recommends maintaining existing limits on the days on which alcoholic beverages are sold, as one strategy for the prevention of excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. Evidence for this recommendation is based on studies assessing the effects of repealing limits on sales of alcoholic beverages on weekend days. Only two studies evaluated the imposition of new limits on days of sale, limiting the ability to determine the effects of such new limits. 

Task Force Finding

Results from the Systematic Review

All of the studies that considered the effects of changing days of sale on excessive alcohol consumption looked at limits on weekend days.

Removing limits on days of sale in off-premises settings (e.g., grocery, convenience or liquor stores)

Five studies qualified for the review.

  • Studies were conducted in Sweden, Norway, New Mexico, and multiple United States states.
  • A two-phase repeal of a Saturday ban was associated with a small increase in consumption, limited effects on injuries, and an increase in alcohol-impaired driving, some of which may have been due to increased surveillance (Sweden).
  • The closing of state liquor stores on Saturdays (Norway) had mixed results, with declines in consumption and in domestic violence, but increases in overall violence.
  • A 1995 repeal of a ban on Sunday sales was associated with a 30% increase in motor vehicle fatalities on Sundays compared with other days of the week (New Mexico).
  • A study of the effects of increased days of sale in multiple United States states indicated increases in the per capita consumption of spirits and beer.
Removing limits on days of sale in on-premises settings (e.g., restaurants, bars, ballparks)

Six studies qualified for the review.

  • Studies were conducted in Australia, Scotland, and the United States.
  • One study found small increases in individual levels of consumption associated with new Sunday sales (Scotland).
  • Five studies found substantial increases in motor vehicle-related harms (fatal and non fatal crashes and alcohol-impaired driving arrests) associated with policies allowing new days of sale in several settings (Australia and the United States).
Imposing limits on days of sale for off-premises settings (e.g., grocery, convenience or liquor stores)
Two studies qualified for the review.
  • Studies were conducted in Sweden and New Mexico.
  • An experimental Saturday ban in 1981 was associated with declines in alcohol-related violence and other disturbances (Sweden).
  • Local repeal of a state-wide allowance of Sunday sales was associated with relative declines in motor vehicle fatalities (New Mexico).

These results were based on a systematic review of all available studies, conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice and policy related to excessive alcohol consumption.

Economic Evidence

Two studies qualified for the review.

  • One study modeled the cost effectiveness of restricting alcohol sales in 12 global health regions for a 24-hour period over a weekend.
    • For the region composed of the U.S., Canada, and Cuba, the model estimated an average cost-effectiveness ratio of approximately $700 (in 2007 U.S. dollars) per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) averted by the reduction in heavy or harmful drinking. This is much less than the average annual per capita income in these three countries, making it very cost effective.
    • A study in New Mexico found that lifting a Sunday ban on packaged alcohol led to an estimated increase of 41.6 alcohol-related fatalities on Sundays for the 5-year period from 1995 to 2000. This would result in an estimated additional cost of more than $6 million (in 2007 U.S. dollars) for medical care and lost productivity per year for the state.

Considerations for Implementation

Information on the use of evidence for establishing policies at the state or local levels is available from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism External Web Site Icon.

Supporting Materials


Middleton JC, Hahn RA, Kuzara JL, Elder R, Brewer R, Chattopadhyay S, Fielding J, Naimi TS, Toomey T, Lawrence B, Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Effectiveness of policies maintaining or restricting days of alcohol sales on excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 674 kB] Am J Prev Med 2010;39(6):575-89.

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations on maintaining limits on days and hours of sale of alcoholic beverages to prevent excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 112 kB] Am J Prev Med 2010;39(6):605-6.

Read other Community Guide publications about Preventing Excessive Alcohol Consumption in our library.

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The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Preventing excessive alcohol consumption: maintaining limits on days of sale. www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol/limitingsale.html. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: June 2008